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Government's £1bn scheme to decarbonise public sector 'a huge opportunity' for leisure

By Tom Walker    19 Nov 2020
Public sector bodies can apply for grant funding to make their leisure facilities more environmentally sustainable / Shutterstock.com/Studio Romantic
Given our leisure centres can range up to 100,000sq ft or more, delivering services in both wet and dry environments, there is a great deal of opportunity for the introduction of decarbonising technologies and solutions
– Sarah Watts

The UK government has launched a £1bn Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS), providing grant funding for energy efficiency measures across the public sector.

The funding has been made available for capital sustainability and heat decarbonisation projects within public sector non-domestic buildings, including central government departments and non-departmental public bodies in England.

Public sector bodies can apply for a grant to finance up to 100 per cent of the costs of capital energy-saving projects which meet the scheme criteria – and there is no minimum or maximum grant value

With the aim of delivering significant carbon and financial savings in the public sector and stimulate the economy, the scheme could provide the leisure sector with a "huge opportunity".

"At £1bn, this is a significant investment," said Sarah Watts, CEO of Alliance Leisure, which develops facilities on behalf of leisure operators.

Speaking to CLAD, Watts said: "Given leisure centres can range up to 100,000sq ft or more, delivering services in both wet and dry environments, there is a great deal of opportunity for the introduction of decarbonising technologies and solutions."

Among the main focuses of the grants will be to encourage more energy efficiency and install low carbon heating measures – for example, insulation, glazing, heating controls and pumps.

Applications must be for projects that fit into one or more of four categories identified by the government.

Category 1 is described as "technologies that directly contribute to the heat decarbonisation of a building by the installation of low carbon heating technology". This includes, for example, heat pumps and connections to low carbon heat networks.

The scheme is primarily focussed at existing facilities of all ages, sizes and shapes.

"Category 1 Decarbonising opportunities will need to be identified to unlock the scheme – for example Air Source Heat Pumps – before understanding what Category 2 and 3 initiatives can then be focussed upon, such as ventilation, BMS and LED lighting, insulation, pump controls and metering," Watts said.

"With funding available to local authorities, the start point is assessing the initiatives that can deliver on the agenda.

"While the scheme is clearly beneficial, it is also important we do not lose sight that intelligent design, and carbon reduction is not deliverable overnight and so we are already looking to continue our view of this in the short, medium and long term when approaching our projects.

"Where projects already have funding or have already started, this scheme is not really applicable, however, if lower carbon heating has not been specified, then this scheme could be utilised. It must be recognised that changing specifications halfway through a project often causes significant problems."

Watts added that, while the opportunities are real, facility owners, operators and developers need to react quickly, if they wish to benefit.

"The timescales for this scheme are incredibly tight," Watts told CLAD.

"With most applications required to be submitted by the turn of the year 2020 and projects completed in 2021, it is imperative for potential applicants to get moving without delay."

Eligible bodies that wish to have their project assessed must submit their applications by a series of dates in November and December 2020 and January 2021.

To read about PSDS and find out more about the upcoming deadlines click here.

Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme  PSDS  Alliance Leisure  Sarah Watts 
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